The rumour of Diego Milito’s return to Racing has intensified over the past few weeks with Racing Club President, Victor Blanco confirming that he would travel to Italy to discuss the proposed move. The return of the now 34-year old Milito to his boyhood club, where he helped Racing to the 2001 Apertura under current boss, Mostaza Merlo, is a sentimental move but could prove successful, if the examples of Gabriel Heinze and David Trezeguet are anything to go by. ‘Past it’ in Europe’s top leagues doesn’t necessarily mean finished in Argentina. However, with a fresh face in the side and more importantly the added strain of a hefty wage, the probability of Racing cashing in on the latest graduates of their academy rises.
Argentine football loves a returning hero in times of hardship. When Racing Club, one of Argentina’s ‘Big 5’ were going through another tough patch in 2013, the board opted to bring back Reinaldo ‘Mostaza’ Merlo, the veteran manager who oversaw their famous Apertura triumph in 2001.
Things have not improved a great deal as Racing languish near the bottom of the table and the possibility of them being well and truly embroiled in a relegation battle in the near future is not unrealistic.
Growing discontent among the fans, as evident at full time after the latest home defeat to Gimnasia calls for action. And so the latest familiar face that could return to El Cilindro de Avellaneda is Inter Milan’s, Diego Milito.
It is fair to assess that the 2014 version of Milito is a shadow of the striker that led Inter to Champions League glory under José Mourinho in 2010. A marginal role in Milan and a diminishing scoring record suggest that Europe’s top leagues may be a stretch too far for the 25 times capped Argentine international.
What then would Racing want from an ageing centre forward with injury troubles? Well, they may well point to the example of Gabriel Heinze who had looked woefully out of depth in his final European spell at Marseille before returning to Newell’s Old Boys. Back in Rosario, Heinze established himself as one of the league’s top defenders and was central to Newell’s winning the Torneo Final in 2013.
The move may be prudent if a fit again Milito with the hunger of being back at his home club can use his experience and finishing ability to exploit more porous Argentine defences.
The price of such a move and the wages that Milito would demand would surely see at least one of Racing’s prized youngsters move on. The famed, Academia has produced so many fine talents and in spite of their current struggles there are a few players attracting interest from abroad.
Given Milito’s position in attack, the player most likely to make way and the player likely to warrant the largest transfer fee is striker, Luciano Vietto. The 20-year old burst on to the scene under then manager, Diego Simeone in 2011 and a string of excellent displays already had him linked with some of Europe’s elite.
Two hat tricks in the Torneo Final 2013, 19 goals from his 61 appearances and an Italian passport make Vietto a very desirable proposition. The diminutive striker is a good finisher who is comfortable dropping deep to join the build-up but any comparisons to the likes of Sergio Agüero, at this point seem very premature.
Agüero was far more developed at this point of his career while at Independiente and as such demanded a far greater fee. It could be argued that since Vietto first appeared on the radar his progression has not been as meteoric as many had thought it would be. With this in mind, and the likes of Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund all still registering an interest it may be a good time for Racing to cash in.
One player already out the door according to some reports is midfielder, Bruno Zuculini. The younger brother of Franco Zuculini, another former graduate is on his way to Manchester City if reports are to be believed. And if the mooted fee of just $1.5 million is correct it could present itself as a real bargain in the era of grossly inflated fees paid by City.
A classy defensive midfielder, Zuculini has gone on to play 82 times for Racing since making his debut back in 2010. Comfortable on the ball and capable of bursting forward from deep, Zuculini has scored 10 times for the first team.
The relatively small fee is unlikely to offer Racing much of a reprieve but with his current deal running down and another wage off the bill, perhaps it would suit. Whether or not a move to Manchester would be suitable for Zuculini remains to be seen. First team opportunities would be restricted, as for example, Jack Rodwell has found out and Bruno need only look at his brother’s premature European adventure to see the concerns.
Perhaps in another season of discontent the player that has stood out is 19-year old, Rodrigo De Paul. Not only has the talented playmaker been instrumental to anything good that Racing have done, he has scored goals and impressively taken on real responsibility to address Racing’s problems. This is perhaps to his detriment as De Paul drops deeper and deeper to pick the ball up. However, what has come to the fore other than a growing sense of leadership is De Paul’s powerful running and eye for goal.
For any clubs looking for creative talent in midfield it could be a great opportunity to pick up a player with huge potential for a relatively small fee.
The finances of Racing, like most clubs in Argentina, dictate that young players are sold at a profit to balance the books every season and in this case, with Milito’s potential arrival there are added factors.
Racing will be prepared for their eventual departure as they are not the first and certainly will not be the last to make the move to Europe. A healthy transfer fee would be welcomed in Avellaneda but the players themselves should be wary. Despite their talents, the last two graduates to make the move have found things difficult. Luis Fariña moved to Benfica and has found himself on loan in the UAE, while Ricardo Centurion has failed to impress on loan with Genoa and could yet return to Racing.
Either way, for the players concerned ,and Racing Club, it will be an interesting close season in Avellaneda.